Saturday, June 6, 2009

Stop One: The Needles, Sierra Nevada Range, California

The last 30 miles or so on the approach to The Needles is, by far, the windiest road I have ever driven. Gaining in altitude at a rapid rate and with numerous hairpin turns, I thought it would be the perfect ride up on a bicycle, though the contents of my Subaru were getting tossed around a bit. Never mind though, as after two days of driving I was happy to be approaching the campground at The Needles, just outside the Sequoia National Forest in the
Sierra Nevada range of California. I was even happier to find Sam and Brie still there!

The next day was a dreary day but we three made the best of it, playing cards and sharing stories under a giant tarp. Sam and Brie had already been on the road for several weeks, most of that time in Yosemite, and it was great to hear their take on perhaps the most famous climbing destination in North America.

Day two dawned bright and beautiful, and Brie and I made the hike out for my first views, and first climb. Igor Unchained, a 3-pitch romp up The Witch, provided the perfect opportunity to sample the beautiful granite of the Sierras. The rock was beautiful, the moves were pleasing, and the weather perfect, windy but not too cold.

The rock in The Needles is tinged yellow and green with lichen. It is fortunate this is so...if the white granite wasn't broken up by these colors, I think it would be too bright to even look at!
Returning to the campground, we were greeted with a cold, hard wind which made the evening unpleasant. We thought about leaving, and the weather the next morning made the decision obvious. With a slight snow falling, we hiked back out to gather cached gear, headed to the Ponderosa for coffee, and decided to head to the warmer climes of Joshua Tree.

While researching The Needles climbing area, I discovered that Fred Beckey was the first person to put up technical climbs here. Somehow, I am not surprised.